During this pandemic, reading books helps a lot to remain sane and positive. Bangabandhu’s birth centenary gave many writers an occasion to launch a number of books in the market. Moreover, the pandemic itself generated many poets and essayists. However, it is always a rewarding and enlightening experience to read articles and essays written by prodigious thinkers of the country. The eminent academician, poet and writer Professor Dr. Mohit Ul Alam definitely belongs to this amazing group of iconoclasts. His newly born brainchild ‘Bangabandhu: Bangladesh’, published by Behula Bangla, has caught my attention and brought me a sense of solace during this inevitable lockdown.
‘Bangabandhu: Bangladesh’ consists of 36 essays which are placed under 9 particular sections including Bangabandhu, Rabindranath, Nazrul, language, war of liberation, education, culture, religion and coronavirus. In the foreword, the writer clearly mentions his motif of publishing this book and that is to diarise the celebratory moment of Bangabandhu’s birth centenary from his end. I must say that he has done a commendable job not just by bringing Bangabandhu to the pages but also by brilliantly and frankly analysing contemporary controversial issues like education, religion and pandemic.I particularly like the textual formation of the title itself. Professor Alam could have used conjunctions instead of using the punctuation mark. However, the use of colon makes Bangabandhu analogous to Bangladesh. Indeed, Bangabandhu and Bangladesh are identical. There are five articles on Bangabandhu which cover the most significant features of Bangabandhu’s towering personality.
Professor Alam has a unique way of writing. He describes in a manner of narration. Before getting into the serious zone of his analysis, he breaks the ice by telling stories from his own life. For example, he could not directly witness the historical event of the 7th March speech. He along with his acquaintances was waiting for the live broadcast of the speech. He writes in “Bangabandhur 7 marcher jugantorkari bhashon” that they had the chance to listen to this magnificent speech on 8th March at 9 am with equal excitement. His narration defamilarizes the entire emotion as if I myself could feel the zeal of the writer as I was reading his words. This way his descriptive and analytical piece of writing becomes a metanarrative. And the metanarrative becomes a piece of art indeed.
Professor Alam equates Bangabandhu to the sun. Like the sun, Bangabandhu cannot be scratched too. His love for the country can never be questioned. Although professor Alam writes his analytical articles by giving his personal statements, he never beats around the bush. He refers to different writers to build the groundwork for his analyses. There are a few footnotes in the essays. Also, he takes refuge in in-text citation too.
Professor Alam, in Rabindranath and Nazrul sections, has come up with a few unconventional and unknown ideas. Tagore has been read and celebrated mostly due to his songs, poems and literary works which touch our souls. Professor Alam points out that his works and ideologies can shake our conscience too. In “Rabindranath o Bangladesh: Jatiyotabader Notun Songa”, he shows how the idea of nationalism has appeared to Tagore, Bangabandhu and Gandhi. Bangabandhu included Tagore’s “Sonar Bangla” to the constitution in 1972 as our national anthem though he differed from Tagore’s nationalism. Bangabandhu shared the same nationalist ideology as Netaji, Nazrul and Machiavelli who fearlessly promoted war as the most effective way of attaining emancipation.
I enjoyed reading Professor Alam’s personal anecdote in “Amar Rabindrasangeet”. He refers to his family members who introduced Tagore, song, music and literature to him at his early age. It is a gratifying experience for a young reader like me to read these precious stories from a critically and artistically conscious person who belongs to a completely different generation. His stories helped me see the world differently. In this particular essay, I liked the last part when his friend took a farewell from him by dedicating four of Tagore’s songs as a token of remembrance. This is how, in Shakespeare’s words, “Parting is such a sweet sorrow”.
I will not focus on three essays on Nazrul as the writer has recently published an entire book “Kobi Nazrul: Bidrohir Ei Rokto” which has 16 articles on different dimensions of Nazrul. This is also a well-researched book on the rebel poet. I will rather applaud Professor Alam for writing such a brilliant essay on language in ‘Bangabandhu: Bangladesh’. By referring to Professor Jamal Nazrul Islam and then quoting Homi K. Bhaba, professor Alam exclusively jots down the challenges Bangla has been facing as a language. Due to the hegemonic supremacy of the English language, it is very difficult to establish Bangla as the most dignified language all over the country. Again, since Bangla is the only official language from Teknaf to Tetulia, it should not be as difficult as it seems to be. Professor Alam mocks the double standard of Bangladeshi people. It is clear that the writer is not committing a dreadful sin by abandoning his mother tongue, rather he, very positively and by historicising, shows the underlying challenges our language has faced and may face in the future.The education section is my favourite part of this book. These essays are recently written by Professor Alam as he refers to online education during the pandemic. However, he deals with the longstanding issue of private universities. Since he has been teaching in private universities for the last 14 years after serving public universities for 29 years intermittently, he comes up with a keen and practical observation, which as a student and now a teacher of a private university I could relate to. He mentions in “Private Bishwabidyaloyer proti Obohela” that after joining private universities as teachers, almost all the aspiring doors to M.Phil and Ph.D. programmes get shut. Under this circumstance, a teacher can think of writing research papers and get them published in academic journals. Nonetheless, at the beginning of his/her career, it takes a toll on teacher to fix his/her areas of interest. Moreover, not all academic journals get published regularly. At the end of this essay, professor Alam becomes a mouthpiece for thousands of teachers when he cordially suggests the authority to start M.Phil and Ph.D. programmes so that teachers of all designations would get the opportunity to enhance their research-based intellect. After all, teachers are researchers who do not just impart but produce knowledge.
There are more sections on the liberation of war, religion, culture and coronavirus. Each section and the essays dazzlingly showcase the writer’s knowledge, wisdom, positive perception and eternal optimism. This book is not just an informative compilation of various essays but also a guide that teaches us how to see things and perceive them with positivity. Professor Dr. Mohit Ul Alam has always spoken the truth fearlessly in all his articles. He makes no exception here. I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Bangabandhu: Bangladesh’. And I recommend this amazing book to my readers so that they can get a combo of information, entertainment, defamiliarized perceptions and well-researched essays in a single book. Happy reading!
The writer is a Lecturer, Department of English Language
and Literature, Premier University Chittagong